Boardman slips off the pace

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The Independent Online

Britain's Chris Boardman slipped one place to fourth overall yesterday as Laurent Jalabert extended his lead in the Paris-Nice race with a repeat victory over his chief rival, Lance Armstrong, on the fourth stage from Maurs-la-Jolie to Millau.

The Frenchman, the world No 1, finished 15 seconds clear on the 167-kilometre fourth stage, with Armstrong, of the United States, again second after another climbing contest all the way to the line. Laurent Brochard, of France, was third, a further seven seconds adrift.

Jalabert, who won this eight-day race last year, is 35 seconds ahead of Armstrong in the overall positions after breaking clear in the final kilometre of the winding 7.6-km ascent of the wooded slopes of Causse Noir.

Boardman, who had been third overnight, lost 49 seconds on Jalabert on that climb, finishing ninth in a strung-out field. Overall he is 1min and 9sec down on the leader, Jalabert, who said: "The race is not over yet and I fear everyone."

Before the start Boardman had warned: "Jalabert needs only another 10 seconds gain on me and he will be unassailable." The Briton had hoped to limit the damage on the climbs so that he could challenge for overall victory in the final stage, a 19.9km time trial along the Mediterranean coast to Nice on Sunday.

Following yesterday's stage, Boardman said: "I was not going as fast as I did on Tuesday. There is still a chance to be in the top three overall but it is going to be incredibly difficult." Today's stage is a 159km circuit, starting and finishing in Millau.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 25